Day out: Glencoe, Argyll

The spacious Lost Valley, among the mountains of Glencoe, is a real treasure, says Fergal MacErlean

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Glencoe- one of the most hauntingly beautiful of all the Scottish glens- holds a secret for those happy to get off the beaten track. 

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Often mist-shrouded, the glen runs for 10 miles beneath the steep slopes of magnificently rugged mountains from Loch Leven, south of Fort William, to the edge of the primeval looking Rannoch Moor. Most of the major peaks with the glen are the result of ancient lava flows, subsequently moulded by glaciation and millions of years of erosion. 

Epic Eagach

From the Glencoe car park looking to the north side of the glen lies the high, serrated ridge of the Aonach Eagacg, which stretches for more than three miles and is a mountaineer’s paradise and a major challenge in winter conditions. 

To the south, where we are headed, stand the dramatic northern ridges of Bidean nam Bian known as the Three Sisters. Our path leads between two of the sisters: Gearr Aonach on the right and Beinn Fhada, the long hill. Bring midge repellent and long clothing if the notorious beasties are about. 

After crossing the bridge over the River Coe the ascent begins. Watch your footing on the initial rocky and rough path up through birch woods. The onward section leads through a beautiful wooded gorge overlooked by the two sisters, with towering rock walls rising on either side of the path. Further on, look closely for the stepping stones that lead across the Allt Coire Gabhail. If the water is above the stones, one can wade alongside them but don’t attempt to cross if the water is more than knee-deep. 

Dramatic Surprise

Soon you will need to negotiate a narrow rocky staircase. Easier walking follows over boulders and there are great views down to Glencoe. Then prepare for the excitement of descending into the Lost Valley. You’ll see why it is so called as you emerge into this hidden landscape. The element of surprise is fantastic as you now look at a large ice flattened valley, previously hidden from view. 

Boulders the size of houses lie scattered across the mouth of the valley under cliffs. Geologists say this is the largest single rockfall feature in the whole of Britain. It’s a great spot for a picnic and even sunbathing when you get the weather. In times past, stolen cattle were hidden here and it was also a place of refuge after the infamous Massacre of Glencoe. 

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Image: Alamy